Fashionably Invited

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I have a Church of Scientology flyer, inviting me to a free film screening showing every 15 minutes at The Church Of Scientology New York.

I am so tempted.

They have a book that has not sold 25 million copies, but has 25 million copies in circulation, in...get this...'50 languages of Earth'.

Apparently I'll learn about my 'reactive mind' and how to get rid of it.

At least they're honest.

Paper and Guns

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Blogging about work is not sensible, and I avoid it. This entry involves information about my job, and I'm both reticent to post and keen to, because this is something deathly serious I am dealing with every day.

The number of armed police officers guarding my office building varies from day to day. The highest the security gets is six heavily armed men. These NYPD specials wear thick body armour and UN-style blue helmets. They carry long-barrelled machine guns and small cylinders that look like teargas grenades hang off their belts.
The lowest the security gets is four regular NYPD cops in their regular uniforms, with their regular handguns on their hips. My office building has been searched several times, and there have been days when, despite the cardswipe-access system, all entrants have been asked for ID.

The security boils back to something very much in the international news - The Mohammed Cartoons. I work in a building that also houses the offices of a newspaper that published the cartoons, and there have been threats made against them.

Today is a cop day. Yesterday was a cop day, with a US Marshal and a few heavily armed SWAT style guys around lunchtime. To begin with I was complacent. I thought they weren't necessary. We're in New York! The most heavily anti-terrorist city in the world. After a week of heavily armed guards, I began to get worried on the regular cop days. Are they sufficient?
My worrying got worse. Then one morning I panicked because the doors were propped wide open for painting in the lobby and all four NYPD officers were in the Blimpie restaurant next door. Anyone could have walked in. It was then I realized that after two weeks of guns outside my office, I was scared.

What do I think?
Every religion has items of faith. Every religion has its..administration, if you will. Its establishment. And with that establishment it has the established order, the established wisdom, the established manner of living according to the precepts of that religion. Anything that poses a threat to that establishment is, from the point of view of the establishment, a threat and a violation of that religion.
Within the the religion, those who violate the established way are part of frame of judgement - that of the religion itself.
Even if the establishment believes that all those outside of the religion are, by their exclusion, wrong, those outside should not be judged or retaliated against from within the frame of judgement of which they are not a part.

As I see it, there are two issues that the cartoons have raised:

1. The portrayal of Mohammed in any form is forbidden in Islam. The fact that he was simultaneously caricatured and all of Islam was ridiculed does not help matters.
2. The cartoons asserted, through the use of Mohammed as a figure with a bomb, that all muslims are violent.

As far as No. 1 is concerned, I think that regardless of free speech issues, the cartoons are gravely disrespectful. In this respect the cartoons are insulting, and an apology is rightfully owed to islamic peoples all over the world.

No. 2 is tricky. The media at the moment are portraying the reaction of the muslim world as violent, reactionary, overblown, excessive. But the fact is that the violent protests are being incited by the same sources that the cartoon was intended to attack, and in the manner of their reaction to it have confirmed all of the perceptions the world at large held about their outlook and methods of action, something the cartoonist, however crudely and in a grossly blunt way, was attempting to draw attention to.

There are violent political and religious factions in all nations all over the world, with the possible exclusion of those countries too small or too pleasantly relaxing to sustain them. Through their actions, they claim a greater part of the perceptions of the world than those who are not violent or extreme. But the vast majority are not violent.
Even though we may accept that the majority of muslims would be offended by the portrayal of Mohammed, this doesn't mean that the majority of muslims are currently at home making Molatov Cocktails. That's absurd.

Yes, the cartoons were offensive. Yes the cartoons were a violation of Islamic law. The situation is being worsened by people charging in to defend free speech in reaction to the outrage, by wearing t-shirts emblazoned with the cartoons, supporting the Danish newspaper's decision even after the paper has apologised...
Nothing exists in isolation, and while free speech is a valuable tenet of many modern societies, it cannot stand alone. Free speech should allow you to walk into the UN and say, 'You're all a bunch of bastards.' Diplomacy begs you not to. Free speech allows you to discuss your sexual escapades with your grandparents at a family dinner. The rest of your family begs you not to.

But you should be allowed to! If you restrict, you police, if you police, you control. If you control, you subvert, warp, manipulate, corrupt, oppress.

The newspaper has the right to print whatever it wants. How it should go about that is a matter of opinion.

Right now I've got six cops at my building door standing testament to the fact that somebody has threatened the newspaper in my building with violence. This building is five minutes' walk from the former site of the World Trade Center.
On the free speech v. religious offence issue, my opinion is divided, but for any number of reasons I would not have published those cartoons.

Blast From The Past

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I like my brain.
In the past twenty-six years we've done everything together, with the notable exception of a few exams, a couple of life decisions and the time when I was eleven and I thought I was MacGyver and tried to open my parents' front door with a small yellow piece of plastic I found in the garden.
Barring this I occasionally have to step to one side and wonder at the rather bizarre abilities of the two or three pounds of grey mooshy stuff in my head. Metaphorically speaking.

Okay, so. iPOD. Got a 30GB piece of wonderousness for Christmas. My old iMac has a 20GB hard-drive. This has lead to a few moments of constrictedness, until the introduction of Mr. External Hard-Drive.

(Yes, yes, it's Valentine's Day. Krissa's a bit fluey, but otherwise fine, so she's dozing on NyQuil next door. I'll tell her you asked after her, Internet.)

After Mr. External Hard-Drive came on the scene, I've been uploading my music with renewed vigour, and tonight was one of those times when you're not really in the mood for the Giant Slalom, and there are 18GB of space on your iPod crying out to be filled.
Now the 10GB I already have on there is pretty good. It's the top stuff; the most-listened to, the most recent, the things I'd miss if they weren't there. The music I'm planning to put on are the sort of tunes I'd only listen to if...say...I was on a nostalgia trip, or I was in a retro mood.
I'm just covering my bases here.
So after Beth Orton's Trailer Park and Disc One of Best Anthems..Ever! (Vol.1) the next CD in the pile was NOW 31.
I unchecked the East 17 and Boyzone tracks, because there will never be any flavour of retro mood that bad, and hit import.
What with the iPod deliciousness being all colour-screened and everything, I've been sort of happy that I've been able to re-associate my music with its cover art, and before Christmas I spent many hours pasting the right covers into the right albums. So off I went in search of the CD cover of NOW 31.
Here it is:

...and my brain went...woah...that looks familiar.
Which means one thing, and it's serious. My brain has started going 'woah'. I'm not sure if this is a by-product of living in the US for over a year, or what. Any passing Med students are more than welcome to comment. It's not chronic, yet, I have whole days without it happening. But I'm worried.
A few seconds of my peering at the picture passed. Then it happened again.
Woah. That REALLY REALLY looks like one of my pictures.
And it does. Look:

Only something's not right.
Let's flip the NOW 31 cover...and we get...ta da!

See it?
My brain noticed that. CD cover from 1997, photo from Christmas 2004.
I wish it did better tricks than this.

Give This Girl Some Money


The most athletic thing I've ever done in the name of charity was to climb the highest mountains in England, Scotland and Wales in 24 hours. It exhausted me and made me totter like a walker-less 90 year old for a week and a half.

I've hitch-hiked to Edinburgh and Dublin(not from New York!), walked, sung, dressed up as a fluffy pink hippo, poured baked beans on people and had baked beans poured on me.

But I can't imagine that I could do what Beth, one of my friends, is doing. She is currently in training for a Triathlon to raise money for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. The triathlon is swimming, running and cycling: swimming 0.9 of a mile, running 6.2 miles, and cycling 25 miles. Which is mindblowing enough as it is, only remember that this is New York, so she'll be pounding the tarmac for the running section, braving New York City roads in the cycling section, and...I can't believe this...SWIMMING IN THE HUDSON RIVER. She even needs a tetanus injection beforehand.

Beth has set herself the target of raising $3,000, which will go towards research for a cure for blood cancers.

She has a fundraising page here, so please - give what you can. (Krissa and I will be chipping in tomorrow - payday!)

Turn To Page...


I dislike people who reference themselves extensively, but some poor soul found this old post of mine via google today, looking for "Blizzard Coverage" TV.
I was taking the piss out of the TV stations' coverage, but it was EXACTLY the same this year. So to save my satire batteries, go see.

Using The New Pizza Tray

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We might not have been able to pizzaski down Charybdis slope by (and/or into) the river, but we did see action on some sweet powder in the park. I had one brief attempt at sliding downhill after jumping onto the pizza tray feet-first, but ended up in the snow arse-first. We managed some decent distances though (this is by no means the longest - on one run I reached Florida), and this is Krissa in action.

She's an absolute rockstar: keep an eye out for the peace sign.

She also uploaded photos from our afternoon of bloody damnfoolery to flickr, here. No shots of Florida, though - the camera ran out of battery.

Death And The Penguin

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It's a race, a race I intend to win - who out of Krissa and I will get to blog about Andrey Kurkov's 'Death and the Penguin' first?
Death and The Penguin

ME I tell you, ME!

I first heard the ridiculously excellent Ukrainian-accented voice of Andrey Kurkov in the 'Books and Writing' podcast from ABC Radio National (of Australia. As you do.). As an interview programme, the show tends to depend heavily on the character of the author they interview, and Andrey Kurkov is incredibly charismatic.

(Listen to the programme here through your browser window, download it here, or read this transcript)

The podcast is in fact intended to promote another book, 'A Matter Of Death And Life', but you can't help, if you listen, but notice one story that leaps out, even amongst the anecdotes of mafia protection and hearse hire in the Ukraine, and that's the plot of Death and the Penguin. I finished reading it the other evening, and Krissa is currently speed-reading her way through.

Read this book!

1. An obituary writer.
2. A penguin with depression.
3. The mafia.
4. Alcohol.

Viktor is a man, and a struggling would-be writer. Misha is a King Penguin, adopted by Viktor when the Kiev Zoo went bankrupt and gave away its animals to anyone who could afford to feed them. Viktor gets a gig writing in-advance obituaries for a national newspaper, attracting the attentions of a mafia hood, also called Misha. Misha-non-penguin needs some obituaries written himself, and after a while Viktor and Misha-non-penguin become friends. After a while, when Viktor complains that after months of writing work he has yet to see himself in print, Misha-non-penguin does him a favour and, shall we say, creates a need for one of Viktor's pieces...

Even if you have no intention of reading this book (which you should), listen to the podcast or read the transcript - Kurkov's tales of trying to get his books published independently after the fall of the Soviet Union are really, really funny.

I'm going to be keeping an eye out for more of his stuff, because it's bloody brilliant.

Death and the Penguin isn't exactly on mass release, as you can probably tell from the Amazon Marketplace link, and the translation from the Russian is a bit...English English, but it's well worth the effort it will take to get your hands on a copy. The one Krissa and I have read is from the New York Public Library, who have a few copies you can order delivered to your local branch.

Apparently Misha the Penguin makes an appearance in another of his books, but which I'm not sure. That'll be my next target...

Don't Glue My Headstone To Me



This happy little chap got separated from his packaging along the way...but that didn't stop someone, somewhere, from improvising.

I love our local supermarket. I once saw a whole skinned sheep upside-down in a shopping trolley by the french bread display.


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Sweden gives itself a 15 year deadline to realise an oil-free economy.

Bloody hell. I honestly didn't think any country would be taking this step so soon.



New York Lessons No. 125

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Never ask, 'Is everything all right, ah, um, officer?' of a policeman wearing a helmet, ski mask and flak jacket and carrying a long-barrelled machine gun.

He will look at you weirdly.

This is because he gave thought to whether everything was all right before he got dressed.


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A musical based on the well-selling novel Antiseptic Throat Sprays Of My Youth by Frances McGurk.

Featuring great cavernous caverns of dripping, caverning mucus!

NO EXPENSE SPARED in bringing you rattling throat seizures you can really feel, nay, tap your feet in time with!

The thrilling tale of the FIGHT with the common cold! It may be common, but it's alive!!

Feel that toe-curling revulsion as the breath catches at the back of the star's throat! GAPE in open-mouthed AWE at the WORLD FAMOUS stage-wide waltzing mucus fountain EXTRAVAGANZA!
You're in for the MEDICO-THEATRICAL ride of your life!!!

You read the story of the artistic venture's long road to Broadway in the newspapers of the WORLD. Now see the results! With MUCUS donated from over three thousand anonymous theatrical benefactors for each performance, MUCUS! is a stage collaboration the likes of which the world has never seen!!!!

We've seen DISEASE on stage before - the CONSUMPTION of La Boheme!
The NIGGLY COUGH in Tosca!
The poison-induced COMA of Romeo and Juliet!
But nothing compares to MUCUS!!!!!

With a score by Crazy Frog and Elton John, costumes by T-Mobile, and choreography by McDonald's, MUCUS! is a show you can't afford to miss.

Apparently men make a big thing about having a cold.
I hate stereotypes, me.
But no, honestly, I'm fine.


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Adding things up can be distressing.


Every night, before I go to sleep, I set my alarm for 7am. In this comparatively clear-minded moment, I nevertheless indulge in the fantasy that I will be out of the house by 8 o'clock in the morning.

Every morning when the alarm clock goes off at 7 o'clock, I hit snooze.
Three or four minutes later it goes off again. It's from IKEA and it has an annoyingly short snooze time. I rarely get to sleep in between the alarms, but if I do, then I just have to wake up again to swipe at the bloody thing, which is a small silver circular clock, which stands up by balancing on a tiny area sliced out of its base. Keeping it balanced is a fine art, especially when blearily waving your arm about behind you, lying down, and feeling your way around the surface of your night table because you can't be bothered to turn around.
At about 7.30, I grumpily turn off the alarm and heave myself out of bed, leaving Krissa to complete the full twisted-sheet cocoon that she subconsciously and constantly attempts to form when she's asleep. She never hears the alarm, and sleeps through all of it.

So for two and a half hours a week, I have this shitty, low-grade, annoying and semi-stressful sleep experience.
Two and a half hours a week, ten and a bit hours a month, or 130 HOURS A YEAR.

Each year I spend five and a half days hitting 'snooze', trying to eke out three more minutes of sleep in my pit of denial and sloth.

I could just set the alarm for 7.30 and get up straight away.

I know I could set up the alarm clock across the room, so that to turn it off I'd already be out of bed...but I don't want to. That's too efficient. I like bed. Bed is good.

Inexplicable Is Monday

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I have 'Lush: Single Girl' stuck in my head. The last time I heard this song was, roughly, 1997.

If orbit is a function of mass and velocity and altitude (and I think it is), how come Saturn's rings are made of discrete bands of material? Say a series of comets bit, excuse me, the dust...granted all the bits from the same comet would have the same velocity and altitude...but to be the same mass to such a degree that they all form nice even bands? HMMMM? How does that work, please. Thank you please.

Grey's Anatomy = Ally McBeal with extra ketchup and a changing room. Discuss.

While we're on the medical cant, doctors responsible for the world's first face transplant say they're not sure how long the transplanted tissue will stay alive. What's worse: being deformed after a dog attack, or having someone else's dead face?

Why would a giant company like BMW attempt to fiddle Google Page Rankings?


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Tonight, I read at Cringe.

I swear, after the post-cringe banter, I will give 90% burns to the next person who uses the word 'attain' in a sentence JUST BY LOOKING AT THEM.

It was great fun though.


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The grey goo in my head is currently being perplexed by:

-This article on flying snails.

-Free Electron Lasers, now getting down to X-Ray wavelengths, possibly enabling us to watch molecular-level activity, like folding proteins, in near real-time. Possibly. Last time I checked, intense bursts of x-rays weren't healthy for molecules.

-Cutting oil imports byseventy-five percent? That's one hell of a lot of plant fiber ethanol. I hope someone has done their sums correctly.

...and, last but not least and really blowing my mind, we have:

Worst. Product name. Ever.


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